Agile Series Part 3: Embrace Change

“The only thing that is constant is change” ~Heraclitus

This proverb is often told to individuals (like me) who love to see a project follow a plan from start to finish.  I’ll be honest, I’m a planner. I’m thrilled when the plans I put in motion actually work out the way I intended.  These are the moments when I retort, “the only people who like change are wet babies.” However, more often than not, something changes, which throws off my entire plan and forces me to not only revisit Heraclitus’s proverb but also rethink my plan entirely.

Building software, particularly in Agile development, is no exception. In fact, the second principle of the Agile Manifesto states that developers should: “Welcom[e] changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.”

It would seem, then, that this principle would disappoint any planner working on an Agile team. Why bother creating a development plan if you know the stakeholders are going to change their minds about their desired features at the last minute? While we’re on this subject, if the requirements are going to change from one iteration to the next, why bother estimating the project at all?

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SLIM-Control Agile

Creating an Effective Project Closure Checklist

After one particularly difficult midterm in college, my professor said, "This is just a wakeup call; there's still time to improve before the final." I think that wakeup call was particularly painful, but my professor's words stick with me today, especially when thinking about data collection (or lack thereof) when a project is over.

As someone who is not a project manager, it was difficult for me to understand why project managers would not collect their own historical data. I understand now that after a project is finished, people move on to the next project and there's no time to update project stats. Recently, I read a post on by Kenneth Darter called, Project Closure: Party or Post-Mortem?. Darter says if the project was a success, then it's important to record why it was successful; if the project was not successful, it's important to capture why it was not successful.

The word "data" in Latin literally means "things having been given." At the end of a project, you have been given a lot of things that only you and your team know: size, effort, duration, staffing, PI, cost, etc. If you are able to take a moment to fully document your project information, you not only build a historical database, but you're able to reflect back on that project to improve future endeavors (whether you would like to remember it or forget it completely). Darter recommends creating a checklist which, "should be defined early on in the project and communicated to everyone who will have input into the checklist at the end of the project." In addition to project specific information, he specifically recommends these three items:

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SLIM-Control Data

How do the uncertainty ranges in SLIM-Estimate relate to Control Bounds in SLIM-Control?

I am often asked this question during SLIM Training classes.  I remember wondering about that myself.  It is a logical question since SLIM-Estimate workbooks are often imported into SLIM-Control to create the baseline project plan.  The answer is ‐‐ they are not directly related, because uncertainty ranges, probability curves, and control bounds are designed to perform different tasks.  This post is the first in a series looking at risk associated with an estimate, risk of your project plan, and handling deviations from the plan.

What are we talking about?

The first thing we need to do is define some very important terms that are often misused (I am the first to admit I have been guilty!).  I went to good old and looked up the following:

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Risk Management SLIM-Control SLIM-Estimate

What If? The Power of the Question

After being away from QSM and the software world for three years, I was blown away by SLIM v8.0's dynamic product integration. I knew it was coming, yet I was still impressed by the simplicity and power of analysis promoted by real-time data and tool links across the SLIM Suite that frees managers to focus on the important program issues.

SLIM-MasterPlan is the center of the SLIM Suite product integration.  It improves upon previously existing program management features of aggregating multiple SLIM-Estimate projects and ancillary tasks with two new capabilities: 

  • Linking SLIM-Control workbooks to provide real-time project tracking and control at the program level 
  • Performing What If analysis at this higher management view to consider a wider range of potential outcomes.

The What If analysis feature is what I want to highlight.

A good personal development coach knows the "power of the question."  Questions lead to discovery, innovation, and action that brings about positive change.  Better questions lead to better answers.  SLIM's power and distinction has always been fast and easy evaluation of the impact of change, and exploring the realm of possible outcomes.  That's what we are doing when we ask ourselves "What If…?" (or our boss asks us - and we better know the answer!).  SLIM's solution logs make it easy to compare estimates, plans, and forecasts to alternative solutions, QSM trends, and your historical project database.

SLIM-Control support for Rational Collaborative Lifecycle Management V3 is validated as ‘Ready for IBM Rational’ software.

MCLEAN, Virginia – QSM, Inc., a leader in software and systems development estimation, planning, and project management, today announced that they have upgraded their integration of SLIM-Control to support IBM Rational Team Concert V3.0.1.

Rational Team Concert provides a unique team collaborative development environment enabling productivity and quality in modern software development. Project data in Team Concert, such as Work Items (stories planned; stories completed) and Quality (defects found; defects corrected) can be retrieved by QSM’s SLIM-Control to perform its project analysis:

  • Variance analysis assesses project health and progress
  • Adaptive forecasts-to-complete based on progress metrics indicated

“With SLIM-Control, our goal is to help our clients track their projects to their estimates and allow them to adapt as necessary,” says Larry Putnam, Jr., Co-CEO of QSM. “This integration allows users to bring their project data in RTC into SLIM-Control so they can quickly and easily forecast alternatives.”

“QSM’s offering, with its proven track record,” said Michael Loria, Vice President of IBM Rational Business Development, “operating on real project data in Rational Team Concert, can help our clients negotiate achievable goals, set realistic expectations and communicate more effectively with colleagues and customers in an increasingly collaborative fashion.”

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SLIM-Control QSM News IBM Rational

SLIM Suite 8.0g2 Is Now Available for Download

As our clients expand into new design disciplines, QSM recognizes their need for estimation, tracking, and benchmarking tools for domains outside of just software. Our goal with SLIM 8.0 has been to increase configurability within our tools so our clients can model any type of system quickly and easily. With SLIM Suite 8.0g2, QSM continues to expand our offerings to support different design processes and increase ease of use.

SLIM Suite.  An auto-update notification feature has been added to detect when a newer version of the SLIM Suite exists and is available for download. Enhancements have also been added so Export to PowerPoint now defaults to .pptx file format and Export to Word now defaults to .docx file format where appropriate.

SLIM-Estimate. An "Update My Project Milestones" button has been added to the WBS tab of the Work Breakdown Structure dialog box to give clients the option to replace existing project milestones defined on the Milestones tab of the Project Environment dialog box with milestones defined in the WBS. Two new SEW templates, "Call Center" and "Data Center," have been added, leveraging new Infrastructure trends.

SLIM-Metrics. A new feature has been added to File | Import Workbook Components > Reference Data tab, which allows clients to import a specific reference group (as opposed to importing all reference groups in the source workbook).

If you are a current SLIM Suite client and would like to get the latest upgrade, please contact QSM Support.

Using Control Bounds to Assess Ongoing Projects

When he created control charts in the 1920’s, Walter Shewhart was concerned with two types of mistakes:

  • Assuming common causes were special causes
  • Assuming special causes were common causes

Since it is not possible to make the rate of both of these mistakes go to zero, managers who want to minimize the risk of economic loss from both types of error often use some form of Statistical Process Control.

SLIM-Control control bounds


The control bounds in SLIM-Control perform a related, but not identical function.


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